A Message to Muslims on the Burning of the Quran in Sweden

A Message to Muslims on the Burning of the Quran in Sweden

Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Expression and Calculated Provocation

Rasmus Paludan, leader of Danish far-right political party Hard Line, burnt a copy of the Quran – an act for which he obtained a permit from the police – near the Turkish embassy as an act of protest against Islam and Turkish President Erdogan’s attempt to influence freedom of expression in Sweden.

This is an atrocious and hateful act designed to provoke, insult and disrespect Islam and Muslims, and we condemn the actions outright, and those who allow these actions to occur.

We note as well that this is the latest in a series of actions – from burning the Quran, to insulting the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) and his family, to persecution of Muslims and others wearing beards or scarves, to graffiti on and vandalism of mosques and places of worship.

What’s driving this?

The actions have in the past been justified by a difference of values and the insistence by some on promoting their values at the expense of Muslims and Islam, with attempts trying to desensitize Muslims from central aspects of Islam. Otherwise, these acts can be and, in some cases, have been, calculated to provoke a reaction for some personal gain – in this most recent case seemingly political and geopolitical positions around NATO applications.

We recognize the differences in values permitting these types of actions, as outlined in the Majlis ul Ulamaa paper Insulting Islam (https://majlistt.com/final-papers/4-insulting-islam/). Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN in 1948 states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Alternatively, the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (Cairo 1990), Article 22, says, in part, “Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’ah…. It is not permitted to arouse nationalistic or doctrinal hatred or to do anything that may be an incitement to any form of… discrimination.”

But there is a difference between the right to offend and the right to be offensive. In Islam, we are instructed to not to provoke, slander, ridicule or jest with other groups, based on the Qur’anic ayat, “One group of people should not make fun of another group of people. Maybe they (the latter) are better than they (the former).” (Qur’an 49:11) Compared to Western perspectives such as “No idea should be sacred in the modern world. Instead, in order for us to progress as a species, every claim, every idea should be subject to debate, intelligent discussion, and when necessary ridicule… encourage even ridicule of the sacred Qur’an in the public media. The more frequently and openly this appears, the less threatening it will seem…” Krauss 2015.

Deliberate attempts to be offensive are irresponsible, naïve and reckless, and not in the teachings of Islam. We condemn outright the behavior of individuals or entities to do such.

We expect, however, that the ridicule and blasphemy would continue.

We note that these actions tend to be inflamed by on-going political and socio-economic situations across both the Middle East and Europe – the realities of immigration and current economic recession alongside the realities of oil, political and ideological warfare. We recognise as well the rate of the growth of Islam in Europe, which also ‘threatens’ core European values.

How should Muslims respond to those who insult Islam?

It is natural for Muslims to become offended by the ridicule and un-Islamic utterances and actions of non-Muslims. Some may even be provoked to retaliate, and can use – as some have in the past, misinterpretation of Shariah, as Islamic guidance for the basis of retaliation. Others see these actions as opportunities for personal gain or to promote specific agendas.

In general, we maintain the options of responses to include:

Vocal objection: The community can, and should make its objection heard, as strong as they need to, but non-violently and without hostility. This can include protest, commentary and other intellectual forms of condemnation. We are told in the Quran:

“And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend. But none is granted it except those who are patient, and none is granted it except one having a great portion [of good].” (Qur’an 41:34-35)

Boycott, divest, sanctions: social, political and economic protest of products and companies affiliated with those who engage in, condone or allow such behavior, at the individual, community and national levels are suitable and proven to be effective. We are told in the Quran:

“And when you see those who engage in [offensive] discourse concerning Our verses, then turn away from them until they enter into another conversation. And if Satan should cause you to forget, then do not remain after the reminder with the wrongdoing people.” (Qur’an 6:68)

Enhanced dawah: such acts of ignorance and disrespect serve to highlight the beauty of Islam in its respect, tolerance, open dialogue and moderation. This beauty needs to be communicated to perpetrators of such hostile and ignorant actions. Until that time, we can strive to move more people towards Islam, and promote the adoption of Islamic values to those who prove themselves morally deficient. We are told in the Quran:

“Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord, with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and argue with them in ways that are best, and most gracious,” (Qur’an 16:125)

Patience: We as Muslims can choose to be patient, and not give in to immediate reactions. We are told in the Quran:

“Hold on to forgiveness, command what is right and turn away from the ignorant.” (Quran 7:199)

We know that the Quran is a compilation of the words of Allah, and persons would have to account to Him for their actions on a fixed day. Burning the Quran and disrespecting it does not in any way destroy the message of the book that came from Allah. It resides in the hearts and minds of people who recite it on an ongoing basis. Allah will be its protector: Allah says

“We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption).” (Quran 15:9)

Furthermore, we are encouraged to pray for them, as our Holy Prophet Muhammad (pboh) prayed for those Makkahns who acted condescendingly and abusively towards him, when he said “O Allah, Guide my people, for they do not know.”

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